Matte paint: it’s all the rage in F1 now, it seems. With Red Bull having started the trend a few years back, and Ferrari hopping on to it last year, the latest team to de-shine their car is McLaren, for whom it’s one of a handful of evolutionary changes made to what was by a comfortable margin the best livery of 2019.
Aside from the change to that papaya orange, there are a number of ways in which the 2020 livery differs from last year’s, while still feeling very much like a new version of the same concept. The way that the blue sections have been applied to the car have changed significantly – we’ve now got blue sidepods and a blue section across the top of the entire airbox, in a change from last year where the blue was brought in only at the rear of the car and on the wings. As a result, the hexagonal motif that broke up the two colour sections has been dropped – instead, there’s a new black trim separating blue from orange, applied with a horizontal-dashed pattern. And, in an extremely pleasing development, the halo has changed from black to orange!
From a sponsorship point of view, the number of logos on the car has increased again – it still feels slightly like the team needs a proper title sponsor, but set against some of the other cars on the grid, they’re actually doing alright, and it’s a far cry from how the bare car looked in 2018. Most notably, the logos of A Better Tomorrow – a campaign run by former team owners British American Tobacco – are now prominent on the sidepod, although intriguingly there are versions of the studio shots released that don’t feature them at all, such as the below which featured on the official F1 site:
Are we going to hit another Mission Winnow-esque row over the use of a tobacco company advertising something that isn’t technically a tobacco product?
There’s a new style of number font featured on the car, too, although it looks much better in its striking white on the fin than it does on the nose, where it’s possibly not quite legible enough – maybe a switch back to the blue they appeared in last season would improve things there. The front view also shows a major new sponsorship addition on the rear wing in the shape of DarkTrace, who are apparently “a world-leading cyber AI company and the creator of Autonomous Response”. So there you go.
Is it better than the 2019 livery, though, is the question? At the moment, the jury’s out: the blue sidepods are fantastic, but does putting that much blue on (along with the black) move the concept too much back away from the McLaren papaya concept? And most importantly, how will the matte paint actually look on track? The shiny colour last year was actually a big part of that livery’s appeal – they’d finally got it right after a couple of years of not quite hitting the perfect shade. The new version definitely looks good in photos, but we’ll have to wait for testing to begin to see whether this is another 10/10 livery, or if we knock a point off for tweaking it maybe a bit too much…